PhD Doctoral Defense by Rik Adriaans on Time and the Image in the Armenian World: An Ethnography of Non-Recognition
Hendrik Maarten Adriaans on Time and the Image in the Armenian World: An Ethnography of Non-Recognition
Chair: Christophe Heintz, Head of the Cognitive Science Department
Supervisor: Jean-Louis Fabiani, Center for Policy Studies and the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, CEU
Internal examiner: Vlad Naumescu, Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, CEU
External examiner: Armine Ishkanian, Department of Social Policy London School of Economics
External reader: Georgi Derluguian, New York University, Abu Dhabi
The last three decades have seen the socioeconomic collapse of Armenia occur simultaneously with a proliferation of media links to Los Angeles, the new capital of the nation’s global diaspora. This multi-sited ethnography analyzes how new cultural repertoires and moral appeals play out in increasingly mediatized life-worlds by tracing the circulation of images in and between these two locations. Highlighting how histories of rupture, from the Armenian Genocide to post-Soviet collapse, inform media engagements, the entanglement of time and images of the nation is explored.
The first half of the thesis inquiries into the iconic forms of pan-Armenian campaigns in relation to alliances between Los Angeles diaspora institutions and the post-Soviet oligarchic state. The second half examines how the global nation’s socioeconomic and symbolic inequalities are refracted in participatory visual media in Yerevan and Los Angeles. The case studies exemplify a distinction between a recognition-oriented diaspora, seeking justice for the tragedy of the 1915 Genocide but also aspiring to respectability in the US, and a developmental diaspora, driven to realize its visions of Armenia’s future in the present through a redistributive ethos. They also show that how the nation is imagined around the world is increasingly shaped by Los Angeles diasporans, who have privileged access to represent the country in public cultures.
The thesis provides a new take on debates concerning the potential of media to synchronize strangers to common concerns across distances. It shows how historical ruptures and inequalities in symbolic and economic power complicate the production of a shared time between homeland and diaspora, even when new media technologies facilitate the alignment of ethnic imaginaries with the unfolding present. This study also contributes to wider debates in critical social theory on the relation between redistribution and recognition, as it illustrates how different understandings of the sources of social suffering are transformed into ethnic and diasporic identities.